Saturday, 13 June 2015

Covenant Fellowship Plan of Action (2)

The Action Plan positively states:

“We believe that the time has come to draw together those in the Church who believe that the Scriptures, in their entirety, are the Word of God and must provide the basis for everything we believe and do. Our vision is nothing less than the reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland, in accordance with the Word of God and by the empowering of his life-giving Spirit.”

This is excellent - a clear statement regarding the authority of Scripture and a vision that goes beyond localism. It is followed by an accurate statement of the action of the General Assembly in permitting active homosexual practice and recognition that “the Church is contravening both Scripture and our Confession of Faith”.

In the light of this unbiblical action there is a call to repentance: “We call on the Church of Scotland to repent of this unbiblical decision and to seek forgiveness from God”

They recognise that in the light of the denomination’s continuing unbiblical action some have “protested” by leaving the denomination and others are considering doing so. I am not sure that those who left see their action as simply a protest against the denomination’s actions, but we will leave that issue aside.

Covenant Fellowship Scotland (CFS) are not leaving:

“While respecting that position, our vision is to remain within the Church in order to seek its reformation from within. We hope and pray that the Church can be brought back to its roots in the Bible and the reformed faith and it is our intention to work tirelessly for the realisation of that goal.”

Vision is a good thing when rooted in Scripture, but can be a problem when not so rooted.  A Christian might marry a non-believer with the “vision” of reforming the unbeliever and seeing their conversion, but that does not make the marriage a biblically justified course of action.

The leaders of the Covenant Fellowship commit “to work tirelessly for the realisation of  the goal of reformation and renewal”.  How is this to be realised?  

The Action Plan looks at short, medium, and long term actions.
To begin with there must be urgent prayer and evangelism and the practical step of registering their support for CFS.  I am not sure whether identification with CFS stands on the same level as prayer and evangelism, or whether it is the only avenue of protest and action, but this idea is emphasised a number of times in the Action Plan.

The second practical action is “to write to your Kirk Session, Presbytery and to the Principal Clerk’s office, indicating in a gracious manner your concern over what the General Assembly has done.”

Well, there is no harm in writing a gracious letter of concern.  I am not sure whether “concern” is the best term, but it is a start.  But, what happens to letters of concern? They are simply expressions of opinion and the denomination knows already that such opinion exists, indeed it revels in the breadth of opinion that it, as a broad church, contains.  

A letter of concern makes us feel that we have done something; it does not necessarily produce action, especially in the higher courts of the church. A letter of concern is not calling for action; it is not asking that discipline be initiated against named individuals; it is not saying what we will do if these concerns are not addressed.  Paul did not write a gracious letter of concern to the churches of Galatia or Corinth – he wrote epistles that outlined action.

If you are an elder “you might consider moving a motion to the effect that your Kirk Session holds to the traditional position of the Church and rejects the decision of the General Assembly.”  

Next to the letter of concern comes the statement of position.  Again, there is no harm in this but in itself it has no consequences.  I was involved at presbytery level in such a statement of principle.  I’m glad we affirmed the biblical position on homosexual practice in Buchan Presbytery in 1995, and sent a note on this to every other presbytery.  I am not sure in hindsight what this actually accomplished in practical terms.

However, CFS, does also call for action at Presbytery level: “We also call on all members of Presbyteries to resist the ordination and/or induction of anyone in a same-sex relationship.”   

I would extend this to anyone who does not hold to orthodox, biblical and Reformed Christianity and biblical ethics. Why pick on active homosexuals and ignore those who promote and support this behaviour?  Is this not a form of homophobia?  Why not say that anyone who does not meet biblical qualifications should not be in office?

What does “resist” mean in this context?  Does it mean vote against; does it mean register dissent and appeal to a higher court if we are not successful?  But we know that there is now, in church law, no legal basis of appeal as the denomination has already said that in certain contexts this behaviour is acceptable.  Does it mean that we will not work with or recognise such individuals – that is a recipe for guerrilla warfare, and guerrilla warfare has a tremendous cost in terms of stress and effort. 

Imagine 40% of a presbytery refusing to recognise or work with the other 60%.  Why would anyone want to belong to such a body when, by denominational transference, you could be working with a presbytery with whom you agree 100%?  I also doubt that in some of the presbyteries there would be as much as a 40% evangelical voice.

I commend these initial ideas.  I wait with interest to see them put into action, but I would have them extended on the basis of the Scriptures that CFS recognises as the supreme authority to action against all who deny biblical authority, teaching and practice.

(To be continued)

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